This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 27th January 1997, reproduced by kind permission of the author, Desmond Holden.

The "What's in a Name" series has been a regular feature in the Advertiser.
Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames and Desmond regrets he is unable to undertake research into the genealogy, descent or family history of individuals.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

"In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves."

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called LAUD?

A Reader in Wirksworth has approached the "Peak Advertiser" asking for information about his name which is "LAUD". This name is not listed among the 70,000 or so surnames recorded so any explanation can be nothing more than inspired guess-work.

In a way this is surprising because "Laud" is an historical name. It was borne by the ill-fated Archbishop of Canterbury (1573-1645) whose involvement in the conflicts between Charles I and Cromwell makes sad reading.

Research into the name leads along several paths and they all end up blank. The place-name "Lauder' in Berwick has no associations. For a while the Gaelic word "Laidir", which means "strong" looked promising, but it stops with the names "Lawder" and "Lauder".

It is certainly not a phonetic rendering of "Lord". To trace the origins of that name would occupy excessive space and so for the purposes of this little feature it may be stated that the form "Lord" was registered as early as 1252. A few variations on the word "lord" with an intrusive "-u-" occur in the Eleventh Century, such as "lourde" and "hlouerd", but it is doubtful if they are related.

The most convincing explanation is that "Laud" is a mis-reading of another surname, "Land". Persuasive evidence can be adduced in that not only is this surname noticably concentrated in East Anglia with which "Laud" is also identified, but also that the 1890 Survey found it special to Norfolk.

That does not mean that it was or is unique to that County. The form "Lande" is recorded in Northamptonshire (1205), Oxford (1275) and Warwick (1292).

The meaning of "land" has changed somewhat since the Eighteenth Century. It was used in contexts where we would now say "country" - in contradistinction from "town". There are, for example, several Statutes dating from 1513 directed towards "both Borough and Lande".

Hence, by extension, a person living in a rural community might have once been identified as "he who dwells in the land", whereas today the expression "countryman" would apply. Note the use in the quarterly magazine "The Countryman". The words itself is Old English. Slight variations in spelling occur but they are not significant. In the year 825 Psalm CVII, verse 37 was translated in terms of the sowing of "lond" and the planting of "wingeardes".

"Land" as a surname is also related to a word which was almost identical - namely "lande" - or, just as often "launde". Although it shares a common root with "land", it made its way into English at a later date through a French dialect (Breton) and was given a more restricted interpretation and described empty heath-land - hence "Les Landes" in South-Western France. It gradually took to referring to open spaces, usually brought about by clearing timber in the midst of forests.

To what extent the extensive open flat heaths and marshlands in East Anglia can be related to the form "lande" or "launde" is problematical. It would be an interesting topic to research but it must be left to local historians to study in depth.

Otherwise either "land", "lande" or "launde" often appears as units forming English Place-Names and it is a matter of considerable difficulty now (if at all) to determine which of them has provided the name for many sites.

Certainly our ancestors weren't always sure! In Leicester, for example "Landa" was used in 1163 but was changed to "Launde" in 1202. (It is 6 miles South-West of Oakham). Similar confusion occurs in Blancheland (Northumberland) and Oldland and Newland in Lancashire.

Whichever form eventually provided the surname out of which "Land" emerged can only be guessed. What can be said with some assurance, though, is that "Laud" originated as a scribal error - namely that the "-n-" in "Land" was interpreted as "-u-".

Such mistakes are not all that uncommon. When the first maps of Alaska (1849) were drawn, the draftsman didn't know what a place was to be called, so he pencilled in "Name?" That was interpreted as "Nome" and it has persisted! Hand-writing in the Middle Ages was based on lettering we now call "Gothic". Even in the modern elegantly redesigned type-faces it is still not always easy to distinguish "-n-" from "-u-". How much more difficult it must have been when deciphering the crabbed calligraphy of a Mediaeval scribe. Furthermore it was not the sort of error which would have unduly bothered our ancestors. The number of occasions in their lives when their names came to be put into writing were limited: Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths formed the total in most cases. Between each entry long intervals could elapse and different clerks could have been called upon to make the successive entries in the Registers. Since few people could read anyway and so long as something was entered by which somebody was willing to be identified, strict adherence to forms of spelling hardly mattered!

In ordinary vocabulary, the word "laud" (i.e. to praise) was certainly known. It can be traced to the end of the Thirteenth Century. But it is submitted that the only bearing it had in the evolution of the name "Laud" was to add credibility to its spelling. It is just possible that the intrusive "-u-" in the form "launde" as an alternative to "land" might have lurked at the back of the mind of some scribe and in- fluenced its development.

People with unusual names often form themselves into Associations to investigate their origins. No doubt if those who bore the name "Laud" were numerous, they too might have united and carried out research in depth - though it is not likely they could have come up with any better solution that that here propounded.

As it is their numbers are limited. Apart from the Reader in Wirksworth there is only one other entry in, the Local Directories. Where it seems to be concentrated is in a band running broadly from South Lincolnshire to Breckland (which name might be significant?). And, apart from the Archbishop, there are no entries correspon- ding with the name in any of the Standard Words of Reference.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 27th January 1997.

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